representatives of nations putting the squeeze on the syrian government have met all over the world. their latest gathering brought them here to japan. the delegates worked on their strategy to push president bashar al assad out of office and ultimately end the bloodshed. on one hand, they're strengthening sanctions. on the other, they're reaffirming their support for opposition forces. nhk world's akira saheki reports. >> reporter: delegates from more than 60 countries are attending the conference, including representatives from the gulf region and the west. they've met several times before, but this is the first time they've gathered in asia. the japanese government hosted the conference to help broaden the base of international support for sanctions against syria. >> translator: the international community has been asking the syrian government to end the violence. but the assad regime is
continuing the fight, ignoring the sacrifices of its people. we need to unify our efforts and put pressure on the syrian government. >> reporter: delegates are trying to do just that. they're working to strengthen existing sanctions by creating a larger coalition and improving coordination between participating countries. >> the sanctions have been very effective. the regime lots its revenues in terms of oil expenditures. unfortunately, some other sectors and some exports to the -- to elsewhere are enough to deliver to this regime a few hundred millions, and that is enough to guarantee the continuation of this killing machine. >> reporter: the conflict in syria began as anti-government protests in march last year, but
it slowly grew into a civil war -- air strikes, gun battles, car bombings. the violence has taken its toll. a human rights group based in britain says more than 40,000 people have died. through it all, president assad and his administration have hung on to power. a spokesperson for the syrian national coalition argues getting rid of assad requires a two-track approach. walid al bunni says nations need to isolate the president and su. >> we have two ways -- putting pressure on russia, china and iran to stop supporting this regime, and then this would be useful, or supporting militarily the opposition or the interfering by the nato to make free zone and no-fly zone. >> reporter: russia and china
have repeatedly vetoed u.n. security council resolutions on imposing sanctions against syria. without their support, the international efforts can only put limited pressure on president assad. diplomats here are still hoping their efforts will help in some part to end the conflict in syria. however, after 20 months of violence, they've learned getting peace will take time. akira saheki, nhk world, tokyo. satellite images show north korea could be preparing to launch another rocket. researchers at johns hopkins university in the united states say they have observed the first two stages of what appears to be a long-range missile. these images of the launch site in tongchang-ri on the west coast of north korea were captured on monday. researchers say they show trailers carrying the first two stages of a three-stage rocket. they say north korean officials seem to be conducting final checks.
the orientation of a crane on the site was also different from three days earlier. equipment that could be used to record the launch, including cameras and antennas, was also observed on the site. the researchers say north korea could be ready for liftoff as early as december 6th. they also note the country has not informed international organizations of its plans. north korean officials sent advanced notice before previous tests on two occasions. the possible launch of a long-range missile was among the topics discussed friday by high-ranking chinese officials during a visit to pyongyang. the chinese delegation met with north korean leader kim jong-un. it was headed by li jianguo, who currently serves as vice chairman of the people's congress. li was recently promoted to the communist party's political bureau. china's xinhua news agency says
li conveyed a message from xi jinping, who succeeded hu jintao as general secretary of the communist party. li referred to the long-range missile preparations, saying china and other countries are concerned. he also stressed that china is working to promote peace and stability in the region. the north korean leader was quoted as saying he's eager to develop relations with china's new leadership. police in myanmar have used force to break up a protest against a copper mine with links to china. patchari raksawong in bangkok has the story. at least 70 people were injured when police broke up the demonstration. the protesters say the copper mine is damaging the environment. myanmar's decision to use force is likely to cause alarm among western nations who have praised its democratic reforms. and so why did the government press ahead with the crackdown? well, nhk world's jun kobayashi reports from yangon.
>> reporter: since thursday, they've disbursed hundreds of protesters. the crowd included local residents and buddhist monks. the demonstrators demanded a halt to mining operations in central myanmar. local officials say at least 70 people were injured. the protests began in mid-november. local residents say they were forced from their homes. they say the mine is polluting the environment. president thein sein has stressed the legitimacy of the crackdown. he issued a statement saying the protests were unauthorized and broken up according to the law. the largest opposition leader aung san suu kyi rushed to the site on thursday night. she called on both sides to seek a negotiated settlement.
>> translator: i want to solve this problem peacefully and in a dignified manner. i want to request that all of you help me on this. >> reporter: the copper mine is being jointly developed by chinese company and the firm linked to the military. the decision to force an end to the demonstration was likely made out of consideration for china. infrastructure projects including the new airport in the capital have benefitted from chinese money. the two countries built cross ties for myanmar and constrained by western sanctions. investments from china totalled $1.4 billion over the past two decades. but myanmar has been reducing
its dependence on china, shifting its focus towards the united states and europe. democratic and economic reforms have encouraged the west to end sanctions. china and the united states are competing for influence in southeast asia. myanmar's per capita gdp is among the lowest in asean. the country may be exploring ways to develop its economy quickly by maintaining close relations with both superpowers. jun kobayashi, nhk world, yangon. from one controversial mineral project to another, and this time in malaysia. a plant for refining rare earth metals has begun operations one year behind schedule, but protests continue by local residents concerned about the impact on health and the environment.
australian mining company lynas began refining rare earths on friday at the plant in malaysia's central state of paham. the facility is the largest of its kind outside china. lynas plans to use it to produce about 22,000 tons a year of rare earths including neodymium. the substance is a key component of electric vehicle motors and other high-tech products. china dominates the rare earth market, and companies looking to diversify their supplies are keeping a close eye on developments at the plant in malaysia. and japan hopes to secure one-third of its annual supply from the facility when it reaches full capacity. start-up was delayed for more than a year amid protests by local residents and environmental groups. they're worried the plant's radioactive waste may contaminate the local environment. in a statement on friday, lynas said it would provide data to reassure people the plant is safe. and even so, residents are
threatening to file a fresh lawsuit against the plant, which could, again, disrupt production. one of thailand's most famous traditional celebrations wrapped up this week. the loy krathong festival was initially intended as a way for people to atone for polluting the country's waterways, but as the country modernizes, the tradition has taken on an ironic twist. nhk reports on the unknown side of the festival. >> reporter: it happens on the night of the full moon in the 12th month of the thai lunar calendar. people across the country flock to rivers. they're showing their gratitude to the goddess of water for sharing her abundance and asking her forgiveness for polluting it.
decorated floats, or kathong, complete with candles and sticks of incense are released into the water. some people add their own wishes for luck, love, or prosperity as their small boats sail off. but this colorful centuries-old tradition is creating some unpleasant consequences. it's a large mass of garbage created by revelers which usually end up bobbing in the water throughout this long night. officials say almost a million krathongs are left behind after the festival each year in bangkok alone. >> translator: thais use the rivers to carry away all the bad things. as a result, there's always a large amount of garbage left over. >> reporter: to help to solve problem, state agencies are
asking people to share a krathong with family or friends or make them out of natural materials. another increasingly popular option is the use of biodegradable materials such as bread. >> translator: many people are choosing bread krathongs nowadays. they are environmentally friendly, and the fish love them. >> reporter: the more technologically sophisticated can celebrate the festival online. visitors to this website can choose their favorite krathong, then add their name and wish. they can launch their krathong on this virtual river. >> any kind of real krathong will always affect the environment. the online version is cleaner
and leaves nothing behind. >> reporter: but these innovations alone are not enough to reduce the massive amount of garbage generated by the festival. what is less clear is what steps thais will take to strike a balance between preserving tradition and protecting the environment. nhk world, bangkok. and that's going to wrap up our bulletin for today. i'm patchari raksawong in bangkok. japanese politicians gave voters plenty to think about as they get closer to next month's general election. leaders of the main political parties debated the future of nuclear power and the country's energy mix. prime minister yoshihiko noda presented the position of the ruling democratic party. he pledged to aim for a shutdown of all nuclear plants by the end
of the 2030s. >> translator: i believe that after last year's nuclear accident the public is determined to get rid of nuclear power and to shut down the plants. we need to promote realistic policies that respond to these expectations. >> one of noda's main opponents, liberal democratic party leader shinzo abe, said nuclear power should not be a matter of black or white. >> translator: after experiencing such a severe nuclear accident, we've all decided that japan should depend on nuclear power as little as possible. but the ldp's position is not to simply say let's go nuclear-free. that's because we're a responsible party. >> abe said the real issue is how to secure enough electricity. he added it would be unreasonable to rely on renewable energy sources as they have yet to be fully developed. the leader of the newly formed tomorrow party, yukiko kada, called for an end to nuclear
power generation within a decade. she added her party would push for electricity conservation measures and the development of alternative sources of energy. japan restoration party leader and former tokyo governor shintaro ishihara said people who talk about reducing nuclear power should think first about the country's energy mix. he called for simulations to determine whether japan can afford to shut down its nuclear plants. official campaigning for the election kicks off on tuesday. voters will head to the polls on december 16th. experts in japan are preparing to dig for more answers in regards to safety at some of the country's nuclear power plants. they're trying to assess the threat of fault lines running below the facilities. the japanese government toughened safety standards following last year's accident at fukushima daiichi. all of japan's operating commercial reactors went offline in the months after the march 2011 disaster.
then last july the prime minister approved the restart of two units at the ohi plant in fukui prefecture. regulators assured they would be able to withstand a major earthquake or tsunami. but the possible presence of an active fault directly beneath the plant has raised doubts about the reactors. we're taking a closer look at this threat from below in our latest installment of "nuclear watch." earlier i spoke with hajime okada, who's been following this story. what is defined, first of all, an active fault, and how does it constitute a threat to the ohi nuclear plant? >> the term "active fault" refers to faults that have already moved several times in the past and that are likely to move again. this could trigger an earthquake and cause damage in surrounding areas. the ohi nuclear plant sits on a fault called f-6. the fracture runs across
critical pipes that are meant to cool the reactors. the plant's operator, kansai electric power company, has continuously maintained that f-6 is not an active fault, an assessment initially backed by the government. but inspections after the march 11th accident have led some experts to conclude that the fault may be active after all. that is why japan's nuclear regulation authority, the nra, sent a team to inspect the plant. >> didn't the utility or the government know about the presence of the fault at the time of the plant's construction? >> they did. the fault was examined in 1985 before the construction of units three and four. there are several factors that explain why the issue wasn't debated at the time. geologists didn't have the same level of understanding about
seismic faults, and the standards to define whether a fault is active or not were different. another important factor is that before the fukushima accident the government depended too much on the plant operator's own assessment. >> now, how widespread is this problem? >> there are 17 commercial nuclear plants in japan and one major research reactor. the nra has ordered geological surveys at six sites including ohi. experts will conduct another inspection at the tsuruga plant on saturday. the agency is drafting new standards of earthquake resistance based on the results from march 11th. it's very likely that surveys will be extended to all existing plants. >> what can we expect in the months ahead? >> right now the operator of the ohi plant is conducting an additional survey ordered by the nra.
its pictures could make another bid as early as next month. government regulations prohibit the construction of critical nuclear infrastructure directly above active faults. this means that if the fault beneath ohi is deemed to be active the plant cannot stay online. the chairman of the nra says he's ready to shut down the reactors if there is any indication that the fault is active. kansai electric says the survey will be a long process, meaning this debate can go on for quite some time. the question now is whether the nra decides to set a clear deadline to prevent the operator from dragging its feet. >> all right. thanks very much. thousands of people waiting
to go home. tons of debris waiting for disposal. vast tracts of land waiting to be restored. overcoming the challenges of japan's 2011 disaster won't be easy. but step by step people are moving forward. find out how on "the road ahead" every wednesday at 1:00 p.m. japan time right here on "newsline." scientists at the u.s. space agency nasa say a probe orbiting mercury has found evidence of water ice on the planet. the observations support the hypothesis that ice has existed at mercury's poles for millions of years. the new information comes from the "messenger" probe. it's been orbiting the planets closest to the sun since 2011. nasa scientists say the spacecraft observed excess hydrogen and permanently
shadowed craters at mercury's north pole. they say the concentration of hydrogen is consistent with that found in water. the total amount of ice on mercury is estimated at 100 billion tons. scientists say it may have been brought by comets or asteroids that crashed on the planet. the existence of life, however, is considered unlikely because of the planet's thin atmosphere. the prospects of finding ice on mercury received a boost in 1991 after a radio telescope in puerto rico detected bright patches at the planet's poles. japanese researchers have developed a technique using tiny objects that could cause big changes in the field of solar energy. the secret is a technique that weaves round solar cells into fabric. the spherical cells are 1.2 millimeters in diameter. the project is based in fukui prefecture. team members include the industrial technology center and a local textile manufacturer.
a solar battery company in kyoto also participated. >> this e-textile could be used for large roofs, domes, or emergency tents. it could also become a kind of wearable technology if computer systems are embedded inside clothing. >> conventional solar cells are arranged in rooftop panels which are usually flat and oriented in one direction. that limits the amount of sunlight they can absorb. but the spherical solar cell can absorb sunlight from a number of directions throughout the day. that makes them much more efficient. the team plans to launch the technique commercially by the end of march 2015. typhoon season is extending longer than usual. meteorologist robert speta is here with the details. robert? >> well, yes, we are watching a now severe tropical storm bopha, but it is expected to become a typhoon here on december 1st. so going into the early part of december we're likely going to be having a typhoon on our hands
as this storm system continues to push off there towards the west first affecting palau here on monday, eventually going into tuesday, already palau shutting down schools early here to make preparations to convert those schools into evacuation shelters as this storm does push overhead, likely having a significant storm surge with it. that's really going to be one of the main threats. and then on tuesday going into wednesday, we're going to start to shift our attention to the east coast of philippines, especially around northern mindanao and eventually southern luzon. not just the high winds from this storm system, but it's likely going to have a very significant rain event on our hands as this continues to move up. still long range. we still have a lot of time to watch. but now if you are in the philippines here, you do want to be starting to make those preparations as this storm continues to push up an you. now here in southeastern china you're currently getting the heavy rainfall. actually in the past 24 hours in guangdong province you saw about 119 millimeters of rain here, and unfortunately the next 24 hours and even going through the weekend you could be seeing
about 25 to 50 millimeters a day across this entire area as this stationary front just continues to linger and remains in place. let's change our attention, though, into japan because northern hokkaido, even down there towards northern honshu, you've been seeing some snowfall, actually going through friday and eventually into saturday, higher elevations up about 20 to 40 centimeters of snowfall, likely even in the lower elevations several centimeters here. even over towards tokyo, some light showers on saturday night. nothing too heavy and definitely not going to be seeing the the snowfall there. seoul, though, with a high of 3. beijing at 1. ulan bator, though, minus 12 throughout your week. let's change our attention here to the americas, because moisture inflow across northern california, plus these high winds creating a very messy situation. these high winds could be knocking down tree branches, knocking out power to many residents across this area, but not just that. the flashflooding potential. all this moisture pushing onshore is going to be bringing
about 200 to 300 millimeters throughout the weekend. so there in northern california you're going to be seeing that very high risk. that is the very high elevations in the rockies, snowfall up to about 30, even 60 centimeters of snow in some of these higher areas. if you have plans on traveling across the area, any flights, do they can in on them ahead of time because this is going to be messy and potentially dangerous. talking about the snow, look at spain. cold air spilling across the north. in spain, that cold air mixed with a little bit of precipitation is ending up looking like this. i want to show you a video actually coming out of this area where the snowfall has been coming down and winter has reached spain as temperatures continue to plunge. the country has issued snow alerts in 16 cities where the snow has forced local authorities to close many roads. fortunately, the snow is not always a negative impact, though. here in sierra nevada, granada, the people are getting out there
and enjoying it as the winter sports resort opened up here. so good news, not everybody is looking down on this in a negative aspect. many people are getting out there and at least enjoying it. but as far as temperatures, all that cold air coming down, things are cooling off here in london and paris. but overnight temperatures around zero and the highs only at 5 on your saturday. now here's a look at your extended forecast. ♪